Solitary Night by Ryan Miller

 

Three hours, one political science final, two liters of Mt. Dew and one Ritalin later, Iím wide awake and bored as hell. My cheek rests against the cool metal of the desk in my bedroom as I contemplate the movements of an ant crawling across my keyboard. The cocktail of stimulants coursing through my veins has turned my mind into a laser beam. That was my intent, so I could write five to seven pages on democratic socialism. But now Iím thinking it wasnít such a good idea, because now thinking is all I can do.

I gaze around my room, searching for something that can occupy my mind for the next five hours, since sleep isnít an option. My first impulse is to settle down in front of my Game Cube and see if I can set a new time record for beating Wind Waker, but then I remember I sold it last week. I needed the money, and it is more of a distraction than I need during finals week.

Then I think of reading, but that suggestion is quickly dismissed because there has to be something more entertaining than that.

I sit up and stare at my computer screen. I had been staring into that damn thing for the last three hours. Itís an old monitor, at least thirteen years old. It came with the Windows 3.1 computer my mom bought in í92. It was top of the line back then. Now, its resolution is terrible and it turns a hue of pink when left on too long, like it has now. Itís just one in a long list of things that need replacing in my life.

But itís three in the morning, so I figure, ďWhat the hell?Ē I grab the mouse and open up a game of solitaire.

I go back to a simpler time as I drag the black seven onto the red eight, back to a time when this game was the culmination of the most advanced technology on the planet. Or at least thatís what my parents told me it was. They donít believe in video games, the way people donít believe in gay marriage or gun control or midget tossing. They had me convinced that solitaire was the zenith of technological advancement, and I believed them.

So I would play my little heart out, wanting to become the best solitairian I could. I never got any better than most people, but I had developed little strategies for winning and saw patterns in the cards, divining their secrets and predicting their movements. And I was convinced that there were Solitaire Gods who would grant me a high score if I was found in their favor, or who prevented me from getting every card I needed while they laughed sadistically.

The Gods find me worthy and I end with a score of 580. Not bad by my standards. I usually donít accept anything less than 520. But I am quickly bored with the idea of solitaire and my vagabond mind trails off in search of a more gratifying occupation.

I realize I should put away my poli sci paper before I forget, so I hoist my backpack into my lap and start stuffing papers inside. Then a blue notecard falls out onto the floor. Itís the note that Chris had given me.

That life-sucking bastard!

He was the first boyfriend Iíd ever had. We met in the Queers and Allies Student Organization on campus and hit it off pretty fast. He was a great guy and seemed vulnerable, and I was on the lookout for someone to protect. After all, with the experience Iíd had with dealing with homophobes, I was more than willing to help someone in the same boat.

But Chris didnít want help.

I donít know why I kept the note. Probably because itís the last thing he gave to me. I still miss him. Even though I hate him, I still miss him. My happiest moments are of when we went to the movies or paintballing together. I was so in love with him. And all he could do was hand me a note explaining that he ďneeded spaceĒ and that it was ďbest for both of us.Ē If he had said it was because I wasnít his type, I would have gone postal.

I start to cry a little as the icy feeling in my chest returns, the feeling I had when I first read the letter. I had always wondered if that was the feeling of death. I need to think about something else.

I open up another game of solitaire.

This one looks easy and my mind quickly diverts from my sadness. I get two aces right off the bat. As I play, my mind slowly goes back to when I was younger, when girls had cooties and boys werenít the center of my thoughts. I find myself longing to be young and stupid again, so nothing like a silly letter could cause me so much pain.

Itís not as if I had done anything to offend him. If he didnít like Halo or Naruto or hanging out with my friends, he should have said something. And he didnít even have the decency to tell me himself. The harbinger of my pain was a three by eight note card with neither compassion nor answers, simply a declaration of the independence I now had.

ďYou know what? Fuck him!Ē I tell myself. ďWhy would I want to be dating someone who doesnít have the courage to tell me what he feels to my face? I donít need him!Ē

But it was a lie. I need him more than I needed breath. I have grown to love his bright personality, his cute smile and his boyish charm drives me wild. We were made for each other, or so I thought. But now he is gone. I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life, and now I am left without happiness or hope. All I feel is anger, rage, sadness, darkness.

I close the solitaire window and start to cry bitterly. I donít even care if the game is finished. I didnít care about anything. The one thing I truly cared about has been ripped from my life, so what does anything else matter?

I realize the noise Iím making and pull myself together. Itís late and my sister is right across the hall. The last thing I need is for her to wake up and find me like this. I stifle my feelings and suppress them deep down inside.

Wiping my cheek with the palm of my hand, I search for my next distraction, something to get my mind off Chris, and possibly make me feel better. I opt for music. My mind is becoming strung out and I really donít care what I listen to, as long as it satiates my mood. So I choose a simple 80s playlist and sit back, waiting to forget all about what ails me.

I involuntarily open a game of solitaire as REM starts playing. I always liked that odd little band. Donít ask me why, and I wonít have to tell you. Losing My Religion is first on the playlist. I like the song for the tune, not so much for the lyrics. But in my current state of mind, I finally start to understand what they are getting at.

They are trying to tell us that life is a big-ass place and people have to handle it different ways. And some people assume that their way is the best, which isnít true. But we all get told that everyone is the same, so I can see where they can get that idea. Religion isnít about God or churches or big tent revivals, itís about the rules that we make for ourselves, and then apply to everyone else. Schools, businesses, governments all do it. Itís only human nature, and I hate it.

Why do we have to be so fucking selfish? I know itís possible to stop. Iíve seen it happen. Iíd like to believe Iíve done it myself. Death, disease and so many wars could be prevented if only people would just learn to think outside their own heads. People are so stupid, and I am ashamed to be one of them.

What? 435? That is a disgrace! How could I have scored so low? I must not be paying attention. Only an idiot would have gotten a score that bad in a game of solitaire.

I close the game in anger and go over and fling myself on my bed. I know I wonít be able to go to sleep, but it is worth a shot. Dreams and black nothingness will be infinitely better than the way I feel now. Before, I was mad at Chris. Now, I am mad at everyone else on the planet, and I am slowly becoming mad at life itself.

I stare at the ceiling, feeling my tired head spin and hoping that sleep will consume me. But of course, you canít fall asleep if you are thinking about it. I get out of bed and start to do jumping jacks, hoping to tire myself out. But that is just getting my blood flowing and making me more awake and alert.

This is hell.

Everywhere I turn, all I find is frustration, anger and sadness. I remember feeling this way in middle school when my face was covered in zits and my ears outweighed the rest of my head. But this time itís different. This is stronger. I knew zits would go away and that my head would grow to fit my ears, but the darkness I face now is inescapable. I know that Chris has left my life forever, I knew that no matter what I do people will suck, and I know that, no matter how hard I try, I am never going to sleep tonight. My body goes limp as I realize I have no escape from my pain.

ďNot exactly,Ē I think.

The idea had always been hiding in the back of my mind, but now it has come forward and is quite clear: suicide. I donít have a job, I donít have a boyfriend, I have very few friends, and now I have no hope at all. The only question left is, ďHow?Ē

I could take out my pocketknife and slit my wrists. But I donít want to leave a big mess with blood all over the place. If my parents lost their son, I donít want them to have a carpet-cleaning bill on top of it. I could go upstairs and swallow a random assortment of pills. But I hardly think Benadryl and Tylenol would be a lethal combination. I could jump out the window. But itís no more than 15 feet to the ground, so any impact would have to be a direct hit.

ďDamn-it!Ē I think. ďI canít even come up with a good way to kill myself! Nothing in my life is going right. What am I supposed to do now?Ē

I open up a game of solitaire.

As I sit and stare at the screen, my heart goes numb. I guess I am emotionally overloaded, but I donít mind it at all. I let the ice demon clawing at my chest have free reign over my body. Iíd much rather feel nothing than feel sad. I know that I will never be with Chris, but it doesnít matter now. I knew that people will always piss me off, but they didnít matter now. None of the problems of the world, none of my friends, none of my family, none of it matters. Not even I matter. I am just adrift in life, come what may. I doesnít matter if it makes me happy or sad or if it hurts me or not, itíll just happen and I just have to deal with it.

Everything I do is meaningless.

735.

I almost donít notice it. I think I am seeing things, but in the bottom right corner of the screen it says my score is 735. Now, in all my years of playing solitaire, I know that in order to get above a 700 you needed to complete the game in one round, something I had been striving to do all my life but never done before. Thirteen years of avid devotion have finally come to fruition.

I sit, staring at the screen, and forget all about how much life sucks. I donít have a boyfriend, but I can always get a new one. And people arenít really all that vile and repulsive. The icy feeling in my heart is lifted, replaced by warm complacency. I let go of my anger and resentment that. I feel like a kid again, young and stupid.

But it is still 5:30 in the morning, and my next class doesnít start until 10:00. So, I tell the computer to deal me a new game so I can practice the rest of the morning. I have a new high score to beat, and I canít do it by just sitting around.

 


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